In the last few months I've been placed over some groups of HIV positive people. They are groups that were created before I joined CLIDE but have been neglected due to lack of staff. The people have been requesting us to come back and still support them. So, that has fallen to me lately. So, I'm trying to figure out what it looks like to run HIV support groups here.
This is a group of about 35 people who are quite educated about their disease. About half are believers. Their biggest struggle is with discordant couples who still want to have children but obviously don't want to infect their partners or have positive children.
This is a group of about 75, 10 of whom are believers. This group is in an area where there is a lot more discrimination. Their kids get kicked out of school because their mom is positive. They have a hard time getting jobs (more than the average rural Ugandan). They are overall much sicker and more impoverished. Their bigger concerns were with end of life care and how to feed and care for their children.
I had two “trainings” last week with these groups to encourage them. Both times I tried to stress that this was NOT God's punishment for their sin (which is a strongly held belief that drives many away from the church after they get a positive diagnosis). We played games, laughed together and tried to discuss practical solutions to their problems.
The groups reported that it was helpful and overall I felt very positive about our time. There were some hard things though. The Awoja group has an expectation of receiving money from CLIDE. I can't meet this expectation and I know it isn't a long term solution to anything either. Also, while in Awoja a few of the older ladies did a drama to illustrate the importance of end of life care. Only, it wasn't so much a drama as real life. The lady who needed care was very sick. She has wounds all over her body and is so wasted away her bones jut out. She has such bad abdominal pain all the time she can't stand up straight. It was pretty hard to watch the ladies in her group “act” out their skit knowing that no one was acting. She has no pain meds and still has to try to work in order to eat and care for her children. She has only a few more months to live. She doesn't need a support group, she needs hospice.